LaRC-SIRobert Bryant headed the team that invented Soluble Imide (LaRC-SI) the self-bonding thermoplastic that received an R&D 100 award for being one of the most significant new technical products of 1994.
While researching resins and adhesives for advanced composites for high-speed aircraft, Robert Bryant, noticed that one of the polymers he was working with did not behave as predicted. After putting the compound through a two-stage controlled chemical reaction, expecting it to precipitate as a powder after the second stage, he was surprised to see that the compound remained soluble.
According to a NasaTech report LaRC-SI proved to be a moldable, soluble, strong, crack-resistant polymer that could withstand high temperatures and pressures, unlikely to burn, and was resistant to hydrocarbons, lubricants, antifreeze, hydraulic fluid, and detergents.
Applications for LaRC-SI have included use with mechanical parts, magnetic components, ceramics, adhesives, composites, flexible circuits, multilayer printed circuits, and coatings on fiber optics, wires, and metals.
2006 NASA Government Invention of the YearRobert Bryant was part of the team at NASA's Langley Research Center that created Macro-Fiber Composite (MFC) the flexible and durable material that uses ceramic fibers. By applying voltage to the MFC, the ceramic fibers change shape to expand or contract and turn the resulting force into a bending or twisting action on the material.
MFC is used in industrial and research applications for vibration monitoring and dampening, for example, improved helicopter rotor blades research, and vibration monitoring of support structures near the space shuttle pads during launches. The composite material can be used for pipeline crack detection and is being tested in wind turbine blades.
Some non-aerospace applications being evaluated include suppressing vibration in performance sporting equipment such as skis, force and pressure sensing for industrial equipment and sound generation and noise cancellation in commercial grade appliances.
"The MFC is the first of its type composite that is specifically engineered for performance, manufacturability and reliability," said Robert Bryant, "It's this combination that creates a ready-to-use system capable of morphing into a variety of uses on Earth and in space."